ALABASTER JARS

Life in Abundance


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The Okra Syndrome

by Fylvia Fowler Kline

okraThe bright green, fresh and tender okra brought back memories of standing on a footstool and sharing a kitchen counter with my mother. As I rinsed my okra, I remembered instructions and warnings drilled into me—all specific to cooking okra in India.

1. Always buy twice as much as you need because half will definitely be rotten on the inside.

2. Never use okra whole or in large chunks because you might end up eating the rot that you can’t see. (Numbers 3 and 4 are obvious requirements resulting from numbers 1 and 2.)

3. Soak the okra in a mixture of bleach and water to exterminate e coli and its distant relatives. Then rinse and dry every single piece with a clean, dry towel.

4. Slit every okra lengthwise and carefully examine the innards for worms and weevil droppings.

Ones with even the tiniest hint of anything foreign resulted in the entire okra tossed in the trash. Saving the unaffected portion of the okra was not an option in my mother’s kitchen. And looking for worms and droppings was my job.

I was very good at it—probably out of fear that my negligence might poison the family! It wasn’t an easy task either. It wasn’t something I could multitask while listening to music or talking to a friend. The okra required my undivided attention. Okra worms are masters at camouflage. They curl and entwine themselves around the inner ribs and tunnels with their little heads looking just like the creamy white okra seeds. And you have to look really closely to identify the tiny grey dot of a mouth that differentiates the worm from the okra seed.

All this training came back to me as I prepared my okra. I really wanted to fry them whole, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do that. So I did like I was six again. I began slitting each one lengthwise and carefully examining it for worms and droppings. One by one, over and over. About half way through and having found no worms, I objectively and rationally realized I needed to stop with the craziness.

But, I simply couldn’t. I continued, until I checked every single okra in the bunch.

The whole thing got me thinking. This is how I am in life. I have a major case of the okra syndrome. I remember the details of every time I’ve been burned, hurt, taken advantage of. And I go overboard with preemptive measures, making certain I never have a worm or weevil dropping in my life again.

In a way, I guess that’s a good thing. But in more ways, it’s not good at all. Paranoia has a way of sucking the fun out of life.

You can find more devotions like this in the Alabaster Jars series. The first book has 53 readings and the second 99. Consider the books as a gift for yourself or someone else. Whether you buy the paperback or the Kindle version, you’ll be making a difference in a woman’s life–100% of the proceeds go towards teaching women how to read.


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Don’t Fear. Say Yes!

by Tonya Mechling
Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” Acts 8: 30, New American Standard Bible.

There is an innate desire within us to serve God. Ideally, we want to do His will and we want to share Him with others. This willingness to serve, however, is often difficult to put into action. Personally, I struggle. Sometimes, I am too busy or too tired to care for the hurting, the dying, the suffering.

In the midst of a very hectic school year, I read Acts 8. I contemplated the words that God placed before me. Just when I needed encouragement, God had a special message for me. Philip’s actions inspire us to hear God’s call!

Philip was chosen by the Apostles to serve as a deacon. I don’t know the specifics of his duties, but I am sure that he was busy. Acts 6 presents images of helping widows and serving tables. After Stephen was put to death, many of the early Christians scattered. Philip could have easily relinquished his duty to serve God. Instead, we find Philip in Samaria vehemently preaching the Good News.

At the height of successful evangelistic endeavors in Samaria, an angel sends Philip on an expedition to a desert road. Philip might have been tempted to tell God that he needed to stay in Samaria, but instead he heeds the call. This part of the story is where things really get interesting. As Philip travels the dusty road, he sees a court official from Ethiopia reading. He could have hesitated, but instead he runs! At the exact moment that the Ethiopian cries to God for help, God sends Philip. Philip’s willingness to serve led to the Ethiopian being baptized and believing in Jesus.

I encourage you, today, to answer the call. Don’t be afraid of the service God calls you to do. God will empower you with all of the skills, energy and time required for the task. Like Philip, you will be greatly blessed.

You can find more devotions like this in the Alabaster Jars series. The first book has 53 readings and the second 99. Consider the books as a gift for yourself or someone else. Whether you buy the paperback or the Kindle version, you’ll be making a difference in a woman’s life–100% of the proceeds go towards teaching women how to read.


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Problems Take a Back Seat

by Fylvia Fowler Kline
God’s name be ever blessed. Job 1:21, The Message

I was there to listen to Bruce sing again in the quartet for the first time in three years. To compensate for the loss of salivary glands, he took long sips of water between songs. And on one of his water breaks, he shared his testimony. He began, “Three years ago I got the blessing of cancer.”

It was a time when nothing seemed to be going right. His health was in crisis, his marriage was falling apart and his business was struggling. A man of faith, Bruce turned over his problems to the Lord. He prayed, he meditated on God’s Word, he exercised faith at every turn, he surrendered to God’s will. But he couldn’t shake the heaviness of his problems. It hovered over him. Then one day while praying, he realized that it wasn’t enough to turn everything over to God. He needed to find a way to praise God for his problems. He needed to live like he really believed that “all things work together for good to them who love the Lord.” And that’s when his problems took a back seat in his life. And that’s why he is able to say his cancer was a blessing.

There’s the kind of faith that helps you to stoically wait for God’s plan to unfold, so you can see in hindsight that everything that happened was meant to be. Then there’s the dynamic kind of faith that does more—It is an active agent that enables you to laugh and live and rejoice during your trials. Most all Christians have the first kind of faith. But those who have the second kind live every day with the rush of contentment and peace.

It was this second kind of faith that allowed Job to chastise his wife with the words, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10).

You can find more devotions like this in the Alabaster Jars series. The first book has 53 readings and the second 99. Consider the books as a gift for yourself or someone else. Whether you buy the paperback or the Kindle version, you’ll be making a difference in a woman’s life–100% of the proceeds go towards teaching women how to read.


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Mushroom-like Tenacity

by Ruth-Ann Thompson

If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there, if I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:8-10, New International Version.

Among the growing list of complaints in my new townhouse was my upstairs bathroom. There were plenty of signs of water damage in the floorboards, including bowing. I feared the support would one day give way, but my pleas to have it fixed went unheeded.

One night after the children were asleep, when I entered that fateful bathroom, I stopped short at the sight. Up from between the floorboards grew a cute little mushroom. We won’t discuss what happened from that point on and how quickly my bathroom got rebuilt!

Yet, I can’t help but admire that little fungus.

Even in the darkest and dirtiest places that we find ourselves, God’s mercy and grace will allow us to grow and become useful in His kingdom. I thank God that wherever I am, His love reaches out to seek and find me.

If you have made a wrong turn or done something that you are ashamed of, take it to Jesus. He already knows. He already cares. He’s already there!


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The Crazy Side of Divine

by Fylvia Fowler Kline

I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say. Luke 1:38, The Message.

Seems to me like most of God’s plans are on the somewhat crazy side of divine. Is it to amuse His audience, to make obedience that much more difficult or is it just for theatrical purposes?

For instance, making man out of dirt, fighting a giant with a boy, bringing down a city wall with horns and trumpets, feeding thousands with a couple of fish. And, of course, creating Baby Messiah without sperm.

What’s with all this divine flamboyance? I’m not second-guessing God; just wondering. After a closer look and a more serious reading of the stories, it seems like all the behind-the-scene acts of grace imply that it’s not about His own dramatic glory or self-gratification. Likewise, all the love and mercy He pours out on us wretched people imply that it’s not about trapping us into sin either. So, the only reason I can come up with for these bizarre plans of God is to nurture trust.

God asks Noah to build an ark during rainless times or asks us to do something equally nonsensical not because he likes to confuse humans or play Twenty Questions, but because he wants us to learn to trust Him. God wants us to be willing to do it His way, no matter how crazy the request.

We need to have the faith to know that when God asks us to do the illogical, He does the impossible. Like when Mary was told she would have a baby as a virgin, we too must be able to say with ease and conviction, “I am the Lord’s, ready to serve.”


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Waves of Anger

by Stephanie Yamniuk

The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. Psalm 145:8, New International Version.

Soon after we were married, my husband and I attended a seminar.* We were beginning our new life and looking for ways to build a peaceful life together. Ten years later, I still remember a technique we learned to get rid of negative thoughts.

When you feel angry or hurt, it’s easy to begin a negative script in your head. It goes something like, “I can’t believe he just said that. How rude! If only I could tell him what a jerk he is, I would. In fact, I remember when . . . .” This negative self-talk is just as destructive as discouraging words and hurtful actions. What we tell ourselves in our hearts and minds soon becomes reality. To break this negative cycle, you must fill your mind with something positive. One technique is to think of a song you like and singing it in your mind when negative self-talk starts taking over your thoughts.

When I am feeling angry or frustrated, I often cry out in prayer and sing the song, ‘Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus. The chorus goes like this:

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er! Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

With children just 12 months apart, I used to often feel overwhelmed trying to balance the life of a wife, a mother and a workingwoman. Some mornings were worse than others–-getting two sleepy children out of bed; feeding them breakfast when they weren’t hungry (the daycare wouldn’t feed them); and then trying to leave the house on time. And all this without bursting into tears.

But then, God gave me this song to sing and soon my children knew it too.

Thank you Lord, for your patience and compassion. * All Power Seminar by Leo Schreven


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Rodents in Life

by Cynthia Ward

There is nothing that can bring a man to his knees faster than a small rodent. I am watching two men looking out the window, waiting for a gopher to poke his head above ground. Now this does not mean they will be able to do anything to the gopher. It just means they will now be able to lay blame for the damage to the landscape on this evil rodent.

In the last two weeks, three different vehicles have been damaged, to the tune of $1200, by squirrels chewing on the engine wires of the cars. Now it’s gophers destroying the lawn.

In moments like this, it is hard to comprehend God’s plan when He created the rodent. But first, I should make it very clear—I am not, in any way, someone who has devoted her life to the study of rodents; nor am I someone who participates in lawn care. So my life is hardly disrupted by rodents. I actually enjoy watching squirrels scamper around. I even believe that, in the grand scheme of things, rodents are mini rototillers that replant our forests. Of course, I keep that information from men who seek revenge upon rodents.

Everything has been changed by sin. It is difficult to see the need for something when sin blurs our vision. Who sees the rainbow when the floodwaters are everywhere? Why notice the tiny new oak tree when all around us is the fire-ravaged timber?

Today, ask God to open your eyes to the blessings that you sometimes quickly overlook or misjudge because of the overwhelming burdens that come with it.


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Angel in Boots

by Doina Cismas Jeffrey

I was driving home after an evening shift at work. It was shortly after midnight and snowing as I got into my car. The roads were a little slick and there was just enough snow on the road to cause a slushy snow splash every now and then on my windshield. This made it difficult to see, even with the wipers on.

A semi-truck right in front of me moved slowly, throwing huge amounts of slush on my windshield. I decided to pass the truck, knowing my little Honda Civic had good tires and was stable on the road. As I passed and pulled in front of the truck, I felt the car spin. Right then, I knew it was the end. ”God, this is it,” I prayed.

What followed was remarkable. After I uttered the words “God, this is it,” there was no fear, no struggle trying to control the car, no semi-truck, not even the lights on the edge of the freeway. It seemed as though I just woke up and found myself in the center grassy median with my front tires buried in the ground all the way up to the bumper. And I was alive without a scratch or ache.

My first words were “Thank you, God.” Realizing there were very few cars on the road so late at night in such bad road conditions, I prayed again, “God, please send someone to help me.” Within seconds, a large white dual-wheel pickup pulled up behind me, onto the median. A large man with a white cowboy hat got out of the pickup, walked up to my window and asked if he could help me. His face and voice were kind. Could God have answered me so quickly?

The man had the chains needed to pull my car out. And when he was done, he would not accept any payment. All he asked was that I help someone else in need.

As he was leaving, I sat in my car attempting to muster up the courage to continue my drive home. When I looked up a few seconds later, the pickup was gone. There was no one in sight even though the road was straight and I could see down the road for miles.

Was that my angel that night? Did God perform a miracle? Had time somehow stopped while my car spun on the road to prevent me from being killed? Maybe. After all, with God all things are possible. This verse now has much more meaning for me: “The angel of the Lord encamps all around those that fear Him and delivers them” (Psalm 34:7).


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My Dream Bug

by Ruth-Ann Thompson

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. I Peter 5:8, King James Version.

It seems that every September I begin a new walking program. The Summer heat has curtsied to the crisp coolness of Fall, and I feel that I can breathe freely as I exercise. This morning was no exception and I was anxious to get started. After a few light stretches, I began. Just as I was picking up my pace, I saw a scary looking half-spider, half-tick, part-crab and part- monster, creepy-crawly-creature-thingy crossing my path.

Imagining that it was growling at me and following me on my walk, I decided to squash it. I skillfully lifted my right leg and paused–ever so careful to aim with precision–then slammed my foot down. Satisfied I had destroyed my target, I lifted my foot only to see millions of baby scary looking half-spider, half-tick, part-crab and part-monster creepy-crawly-creature- thingies scampering in every direction! Ewww! I gasped as I propelled forth with the speed of an Olympic sprinter. I screamed, running faster than the cars on the street nearby. Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! I shivered. I stomped my feet repeatedly into a nearby puddle only to realize that my old walking shoes had a hole in the right toe.

Itching ensued as I swatted at imaginary creatures on my legs, arms, neck and everywhere else. (I’m still scratching as I write this!) Once I settled down—and believe me, it took quite awhile for that to happen—I had to smile. Even though I tried to end the life of that bug-creature-thingy, it would live on through its many babies.

We all have dreams inside of us—“thingies” that we would love to give birth to—and the devil seeks to destroy us at every turn. Let’s determine not to let him squash our dreams.


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God in the Back Pages

by Fylvia Fowler Kline

If the family is too small for a lamb, then share it with a close neighbor. Exodus 12:4, The Message

As it is with most things, it’s the sensational side of God that makes the headlines. Like when He parted the Red Sea, or when He asked little David to fight Goliath, or when He sent down a chariot to whisk Elijah into heaven. It’s not that I don’t like these stories, but sometimes these stories shroud my God in an awesome, holy glow that makes me feel unworthy and hesitant in His presence.

That’s why my favorite stories are the obscure ones, the ones that take just a verse or two to tell, those that make the back page and not the headlines. These brief stories speak to me of a Father God, someone who is sensitive, understanding and extremely reasonable. Such is the story told in the first few verses of Exodus 12–It’s time for the last plague, the death of the firstborn. The only way to escape death is to sacrifice a lamb and smear its blood on the doorpost.

I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a single Hebrew family that was going to risk losing a child. Every family was determined to get a lamb, no matter the cost. One lamb per family was not much to ask on the eve of their freedom.

Here’s the scene: No one is questioning the cost of the goat or the demands of God. They are willing to do whatever it takes. But God makes a concession– God takes into account that one lamb per family may be too expensive for some, that a whole roasted lamb may result in wasted food. So this mighty, awesome God of mine—who is in a time crunch and in the middle of the major project of delivering an entire nation out of slavery—takes the time to pay attention to something comparatively insignificant. And He tells the people to share a lamb if needed.

God makes time for the little things. He’s concerned about my food budget, my dying garden and my bulging waist. I love that my God doesn’t expect me to just suck it up and look forward to the Second Coming. No, He sends His Holy Spirit to help me with mundane human activities too.